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Jan 3 2013

Whose Fault Is Your Divorce, Anyway?

By at 4:10 pm

So, I was reading this article in The Huffington Post. It’s by Laura Doyle, and the encouraging, inspiring title is, (can I get a big, Kermit the Frog-type intro as the curtain opens? YAAAAAYYYYY!!!)

Women: Five Reasons Your Divorce Is Your Fault

I know, I know–why did I even read it if I knew I was going to disagree with most of it? Why did I read it if I predicted (correctly) that much of it would nauseate me? Why did I read it if the first two sentences (“I teach intimacy skills, but not to couples and not to men. I only teach them to women because we are the ones who have the power to make our relationships intimate.”) made my uterus want to reach through my belly button to punch this woman in the face?

I read it because I try to practice what I preach in terms of attempting to understand opposing points of view–even knuckle-scraping ones like Doyle’s. I read it because even in that shallow drivel, there might be something worth learning and applying. Indeed, there was. Receive help graciously, state your needs and wants respectfully, don’t treat your husband like an employee, and a few other ideas I think originated with my hero, Captain Obvious. Her blanket application of this advice to women, however, is very Mad Men, and her slimy analysis of where a woman holds power versus a man makes my skin crawl.

My most serious gripe with this piece, though, is the use of the word “fault.” I wish we could shift our thinking to focus on responsibility rather than fault. Apologies for sounding crunchy with the psychobabble, but assigning fault is diminishing, whereas assigning responsibility is empowering without letting anyone off the hook. Let’s re-word a few things, shall we?

Child: It’s not my fault the dog ate my homework!

Parent: Maybe not. Was it your responsibility to get your homework done and put away? Did you do that?

Friend #1: It’s not my fault I was late!

Friend #2: No, but was it your responsibility to let me know you’d be late? Did you do that?

Wife: It’s not my fault we’re divorcing!

Husband:  But is it your responsibility to do your very best in the marriage? Did you do that?

Now, I’m a big fan of brevity, and I know “Your Fault” has fewer syllables than “Your Responsibility To Do XYZ.” In this case, though, I truly believe this approach can shift one’s thinking away from thrashing about to absolve oneself from blame toward genuinely looking inward sans criticism to avoid the problem in the future. In my mind, it’s worth the extra verbiage.

It’s not always so clean-cut as the examples above, of course. Sometimes, the answer to the questions above are “Yes.” As in:

Child: Yes, it was my responsibility, and I did do that, but Snookums mysteriously grew opposable thumbs, opened my backpack, and decided to up his fiber intake by chewing on the one piece of paper among the many which had my homework on it.

Friend #1: Yes, it was my responsibility, and no, I didn’t do that because my Bluetooth wasn’t working and it’s illegal to make a call while driving unless it’s hands-free.

Wife: Yes, it’s my responsibility, and yes, I did do that, but after you slept with our marriage therapist, I decided this marriage was not worth saving.

In most cases, though, this approach will lead to a deeper and more long-lasting solution than making sure one isn’t blamed for something. Placing and/or avoiding blame is a very child-like reaction to even the most innocent mistakes, and the older we get, the less we should do it. Assigning fault is much less productive than assigning and/or accepting responsibility. Sometimes, though, there are exceptions. Here’s one: I blame Laura Doyle for employing gross sexism to make women feel crappier about themselves than they already do, and insulting men by saying they have no power to forge intimacy. At least, though, I take responsibility for placing blame.


Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on Kveller are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

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